mardi 30 novembre 2010

# Data Fossils by Tobias Jewson

Data Fossils is the last project of the series about the RIBA President's medals projects. It is a project designed by Tobias Jewson for Liam Young (from Tomorrow's Thoughts Today) and Kate Davies' studio at the AA.
This very interesting project dramatizes a near future where digital data would be biocomputerly archived (fossilized) within organic tissues and mineral substance. In this latest case, Tobias introduces the geological constitution of monumental earth archives in Iceland, offered to far future archeologists.

Here is his text:
In the digital era our information no longer takes the form of the physical, but that of a electronic file stored in ‘the cloud’. Our collective history is quickly effaced from this fragile and ephemeral domain, a computer crashes, formats are quickly obsolete, a hard drive is lost and all is gone. With our attachment to physical objects and mementos becoming increasingly superseded by our relationship to information, what will we leave for future generations?
The project employs design speculation as a critical tool to explore the potential ways in which architecture and landscape may respond to our ever evolving digital fascination. ‘Data Fossils’ has evolved as a series of fictional scenarios grounded in technically rigorous physical and computational investigations. Real techniques have been developed for encoding digital information in the physical world at both individual and collective scales.
Advances in biocomputing are allowing the possibility of storing data in living, physical forms. As the division between our bodies and the digital becomes increasingly blurred, the bone’s ability to remodel itself, in response to stress, can be hacked to provide data storage. Polyps of calcified binary code become written onto our skeleton, recounting our digital identities- a poet’s finest sonnet is read like Braille through his skin; an Internet glutton’s hoarded browser bookmarks cripple his every movement, our remains become an archaeology of memories.
Our collective history can be deposited in columns and strata of earth – where once archivists trawled the library stacks, data geologists now roam the Icelandic landscape. Hoards of machines traverse the lava deserts, scraping loose sand from the surface, and under immense heat transforming it into elaborate glass like geometries, within which our recent internet activities are encased. Topsoil blown by the harsh arctic winds soon gathers in the lee side of these immense structures, the grounded geological layer sprouting grass and moss.
Over time, habitats will grow in the glimmering hollows as fields of data slowly reverse Icelandic soil erosion. Local Islanders read the growth of this landscape from afar, whilst archaeologists look close ,using advanced MRI scanners, searching for insights into our past. And while tourists might flock to see history in the making archaeologists will read the dull fragments of frozen silica as records of our digital pasts.

Software application developed to encode data inputs in physical artefacts.
Software application developed to encode data inputs into the calcifying strucutre of our bones.

Archaeologists decode skeletal remains to bring back a dead poets lost works.
The informational glutton is bogged down by spam and excessive downloads.

Illegal immigrants conceal their data, and copy and paste new identities.

Like climate records trapped in ice cores data archiving can also become a geological process.
Software developed for the realtime growth of data geology from live twitter streams.
Software application developed to encode data inputs into structural building elements.

The machines use the immense heat of burning thermite to fuse sand into intricate data forests of volcanic glass.
Schematics of data archiving machines and physical experiments with thermite glass making.
Experiencing the informational landscape.

Data archeologists deciphering one of the oldest areas of the informational landscape.

People pilgrimage to this area known to hold the last data relating to flurry of internet activity from the day Michael Jackson died.

lundi 29 novembre 2010

# Ai Wei Wei is under House Arrest

I am a bit late with these news but I learned yesterday that Ai Wei Wei has been placed under house arrest by the Chinese Authorities at the beginning of this month. In fact, one could recently read about his studio in Shanghai, first authorized then built, and eventually retroactively judged illegal and subject to destruction; following what, the Chinese artist decided to organize himself a destructive celebration of his studio. This seems to have been as an excuse for the Chinese Authorities to arrest him -they were probably planning that a long time ago, since Ai Wei Wei never failed to criticize the Chinese governmental system- as "they cannot let anything happen if they don't understand it" says the artist in a interview for the BBC visible here.

I definitely do not register myself in a world vision dividing the "free democratic world" and the "evil totalitarianism axis"; however, one has to observe that the freedom of press and opinion in China is still severely limited since those liberties constitutes an obstacle to the bureaucratic capitalist system currently in operation. The difficulty of dealing with those issues seems to be related to the fact that governmentability is more operative via a system than via peoples themselves, as illustrated by Wen Jiabao's (the Chinese Prime Minister) own interview for CNN being censored in China. In fact, in this interview Jiabao was stating that "freedom of speech is indispensable, for any country, a country in the course of development and a country that has become strong".
Read the whole interview.

dimanche 28 novembre 2010

# St. Stephen's Cathedral, Bio-Structural Architecture by Liu Chien Sheng

In my last article about Alistair William's Monastery of Irrigation, I was referring among others, to Hernan Diaz Alonso's students' cathedral project in Angewandte (Vienna) so I thought that it would be interesting to publish one of them.
St. Stephen's Cathedral is a project designed by Liu Chien Sheng and demonstrates of a very rich work. Beyond the usual architectural vocabulary used by Diaz Alonso's studios, lies the real richness of space created by this student.
My regular readers might be surprised that I value this "suckerpunchy" project since I believe that a new architecture should be achieved by more than the simple revolution of its vocabulary. However, this project demonstrating a tremendous amount of work and rigorousness, I cannot help to veritably respect it, just like I respect and appreciate Mr. Diaz Alonso's sharpness and precision of discourse that he brings whenever he is invited to talk about architecture (for instance, recently invited at Pratt Institute's symposium Architecture and Beauty organized around Yael Reisner's new book)

St. Stepnen's Cathedral, Bio-Structural Architecture from Liu Chien Sheng on Vimeo.

samedi 27 novembre 2010

# Monastery of Irrigation by Alistair Williams

UK schools' projects, as we know, are as amazing for the strength and ingeniousity of their narratives than for their concern for interesting and evocative means of representations. In this regard, the Monastery of Irrigation by Alistair Williams (also selected by the President's Medals and also for the University of Westminster) is striking for its use of an hybrid of hand drawing and computer generated images, thus creating a unique poetic vocabulary serving the program. The latter is a building that organizes its monastic life around water rhythm and power.
Everything in this architecture recounts the calm and the insular aspect of the monastery which is to be contrasted with the talkative vocabulary used by urban cathedral recently designed by Hernan Diaz Alonzo's studios or Tobias Klein and Jordan Hodgson respectively at the Bartlett and the Royal College of Arts (see previous article).
In the same spirit, one would like to (re)read the article about Chen Xinyang's Space Monastery/Prison project at Pratt Institute.

text by Alistair Williams:
Is there no larger and more encompassing creative element in this world than nature and its perpetual interplay between ourselves and the lives we build? What is a more vibrant, energising icon for nature than the movement and constant renewal of water? It moves through, around, under, over and binds us together. It connects all living beings through a central need, a chemical desire that allows us to grow, to build and strengthen.
The Monastery of Irrigation is imbued with water. It flows around and through, powers and feeds it. It offers aesthetical and spiritual planes. It surrounds and embraces the cold and stark concrete, offering on those blank surfaces, a plane on which light can reflect and play with the water’s shimmering surfaces. Every surface is alive, perpetually moving and giving the building the perception of continual growth and energy.
The realignment of the traditional cloisters, cells and chapel propels the building forward, out of tradition and the esoteric, out of history and into the future, where belief stems from a practical relationship with the world.
It is a building of contrasts, underneath the tones of cascading water lies the mechanical percussive heart of the building. Water transforms from the musical or visual, into something vastly powerful and energising. Again it has the potential to change; the vast water powered pipe organ system, illustrates how water, away from its own natural lyricism, can power and project sound around the entire building. Water’s influence can never be disguised or hidden, it flows inextricably with the building itself.
Due to the adaptable design the monastery can project itself outside its own construction to mark and impact any environment. When the concept is multiplied it increases the inherent power of water.
Water reminds us of our place within something greater, something far beyond our comprehension, something beautiful and powerful. We live and build because of it.

To live by a large river is to be kept in the heart of things.

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.

Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.

As the sun doth daily rise, Brightening all the morning skies, So to Thee with one accord Lift we up our hearts, O Lord.

Life's errors cry for the merciful beauty that can modulate their isolation into a harmony with the whole.

Man cannot aspire if he looked down; if he rise, he must look up.

The highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage.

Pass the sugar please?

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context, a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment,

A message prepared in the mind reaches a mind; a message prepared in a life reaches a life.

Moonlit Sailing

High Water

Low Water

Burial at Sea

jeudi 25 novembre 2010

# Metropolis II by Chris Burden on Transit-City

Francois Bellanger very recently released a post about Chris Burden's new installation which could easily be considered as the artistic manifesto of Transit-City.
In fact, this installation, Metropolis II, is a monumental metropolitan race track on which 1200 hot wheels cars are driving at high speed. It can sound a bit too straight forward to represent Los Angeles' circulation as the artist asserts; however, watching the video above is a good way to realize that the speed frenzy occurring within this tentacular race track becomes very interesting if not hypnotic...

# Port of London Authority (The rise and fall of the icon) by James Wignall

We continue our exploratory series of UK schools' best projects for 2009-10 with a project entitled Port of London Authority (The rise and fall of the icon) and designed by James Wignall in the Royal College of Arts.
In this project, he introduces a near future City of London flooded by the effects of Global Warming, and thus the appropriation of this new surface embodied by water. In this regard, this project questions the modernist paradigm of the skyscraper (see the gorgeous photomontage of the Seagram Building falling down below) by re-exploring the notion of horizontality in architecture. What used to be the tallest buildings (especially in most vision of the future) become inhabited bridges above the river (sea) Thames.

“When the earth was last four degrees warmer, there was no ice at either pole.”
Mark Lynas, Six Degrees
Both the intergovernmental panel of climate change and the Met Office Hadley Centre predict a possible temperature rise of four degrees in the next millennium. A four degree world will result in the
re-organisation of the planet.
Humanity must begin to ask how such environmental change, rather than being seen as a threat, is in fact a generator to reconfigure our cities and create new altered urban models.
The Romans chose their position along the edge of the Thames where it was narrow enough to cross, but vitally deep enough for the largest sea going ships of the time; London thrived and became the centre of trade for the entire Roman Empire.
Since then the Thames has changed and Victoria’s Embankment was able to control and alter nature’s course. As man put pressure on nature, nature began to fight back and eventually overpowered Victoria’s imposition.
The depth of the River Thames is now similar to that of the Panama Canal allowing the largest ships on the planet back into the centre of London. Through the rising water the state infrastructures are washed out of London’s urban fabric and float above the old city. Centres that people have always traditionally travelled to now have this remarkable ability to move themselves. Wherever infrastructure is needed it can now go.
The Fallen Icon. Inverted-Skyline
Man’s obsession with the grandest, tallest, most indulgent creations have led to icons of absurdity, energy doomed products of a wasteful era. These icons shall fall within a future, energy conscious society; a metaphor for a new type of architecture, a new type of city.
The fallen icons, former vertical typologies have become linear. London’s skyline is now read from Google Earth. The fallen skyline is able to bridge the water and connect the moving infrastructures to London’s dry urban fabric. The starchitects’ skyscrapers have become habitable bridges which, not only allow London to survive in the flooded world, but in fact thrive under the new conditions.

tutors: Fernando Rihl, Charlotte Skene Cataling & Marc Frohn

mercredi 24 novembre 2010

# Platforms by Romain Pellas

French artist Romain Pellas created several platforms installations that uses a very cheap and rough looking architectural vocabulary. With Ceiling (Paris 2006) (photograph above + last one & video), this vocabulary implements a strong contrast with a bourgeois apartment, thus creating an architectural dialogue as violent as interesting.
Platform is only one category of work for which Pellas uses this "bricolage" language. Much more interesting installations can be seen on his website.